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Concert Reviews:
A more relaxed MGMT rocks the Fillmore
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

DETROIT -- MGMT is at that odd point in a young band's career, having released a hit-filled, buzz-making debut album (2007's "Oracular Spectacular") and a more ambitious but less accessible follow-up in this year's "Congratulations." That always results in an odd audience dynamic, which was certainly on display during the Brooklyn quintet's show Wednesday night (June 16) at the Fillmore Detroit.

Not that the crowd wasn't behind MGMT; it was, in fact, a boisterous group, supportive of the new material but clearly far more energized by the first album's hits -- "Electric Feel," "Time to Pretend" and "Kids" -- that the group carefully deployed for maximum effect in its 18-song, hour-and-45-minute set.

The irony is that those at the Fillmore saw a markedly more relaxed group than the one that rolled through during "Oracular Spectacular's" ascent. Back then MGMT -- particular founders Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser -- were clearly overwhelmed by and grappling with their success, while on Wednesday the troupe was notably more relaxed and confident, though at times tentative as it blended selections from two very different albums.

The psychedelic-flavored "Congratulations" certainly got its due, with MGMT playing all but one of its nine songs as projections flitted across geometric-shaped video screens behind the band. There was a sense of unusual delicacy, however, as the group worked through fare like "Someone's Missing" and "Song For Dan Treacy;" even the first single, "Flash Delirium," and the epic, suite-like "Siberian Breaks" felt like they were being handled with kid gloves, a feeling that also translated to older material such as "The Youth," "Of Moons, Birds and Monsters," "Pieces of What" and "Weekend Wars."

It also didn't help that VanWyngarden's vocals were buried in the mix throughout the show, reducing many of the songs to a sonic murk that didn't do justice to their intricate arrangements.

The show did pick up some momentum at the end, however, particularly with a one-two punch of "Time to Pretend" and "Brian Eno," and MGMT did deliver some treats via the non-album tracks "Destrokk," which opened the concert, and an exuberant encore rendering of the nearly 14-minute "Metanoia." "Kids," played mostly by machines as the group members danced around stage, was an enjoyable goof that had the Fillmore crowd bouncing in unison, while "Congratulations' " title track gave the night a richly melodic finish.

MGMT may still be grappling, but this time it's with creative ambitions that will likely give the group long life, if not exactly the same level of success.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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